My speaking journey pt.1: I "sorta" spoken to a native today

TL;DR: Today, I had a conversation with a native Japanese speaker, and it went decent as expected but a bit slow. I struggled with thinking on the spot and wondered how to improve besides vocabulary, grammar, and reading (which is likely to be).

I’m a member of a Discord server where we often have Japanese natives and learners joining. Today was quite interesting as I decided to join a call with two native speakers and a few other curious individuals. I must admit, the experience was a bit slow-paced. While they were able to communicate with us, there were still some words they didn’t understand. On the other hand, we learners were stuck with using only phrases and had difficulty understanding their concise statements. Nevertheless, I managed to communicate to some extent by using certain phrases.

Considering that I have a touch of social anxiety, this was definitely an achievement for me. However, it has also raised more questions about speaking than it has answered. With my current level at around N5 and some N4 vocabulary, and soon finishing Genki 1, I feel like I still have a long way to go before becoming proficient in speaking.

After this experience, I have a strong desire to improve my speaking skills. The biggest obstacle I face is often blanking out and struggling to find the right words to say. I find myself overthinking and questioning what I can express with the limited Japanese language arsenal I possess. Overcoming this hurdle is a priority for me. I do practice by feel and interpretation, meaning I typically refuse to translate, unless I ask what a new word was. For example, I learned today Dog Breed is 犬種。It seems asking questions shouldn’t be a problem lol.

I’ll probably provide an update depending on how I feel in the future. I believe sharing my progress will help me gain different perspectives and hopefully receive some corrections along the way.

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Just curious - what Discord server might that be (if you don’t mind saying)?

I’ve had similar experiences, in that one of my hobbies is ‘amateur radio’, and I from time to time I have struggled with speaking off-the-cuff with Japanese radio amateurs (via an IP-based app through which I can connect to radio operators talking via radio in Japan) - it’s good that we share an interest in the same hobby, which gives us some common ground for engaging in small talk, but boy is it difficult to produce the words in real-time, let alone trying to understand everything that they are saying.

I am likely at a similar level as you, language-wise, in that I have passed the N5 and taken but failed (by 3 points) the N4 exam last December.

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Hi! It’s only a matter of time we’ll get over this hurdle… We won’t be here forever!
Btw the server is Japanese-English Study Group. Like I said, there are Japanese natives who also like to learn as well!

Never taken a JLPT test yet (since I wouldn’t want to go traveling to California just to take and probably fail lol), but maybe one day when I am really confident in my skills, I’ll consider the travel.

I’ve been cleaning up a gazillion open web browser pages on this PC that I haven’t looked at since forever, and in doing so I happened to stumble across both this topic again as well as an open browser tab for the Japanese-English Study Group discord server.

(I was a bit confused as to why I was even a member of that discord, not remembering how or why I had gotten there - so finding this old discussion answered that mystery for me.).

I’m probably committing a horrible faux pas by reopening a topic that has been dormant for so long, but nevertheless I’m wondering whether you’ve participated in any chats on that discord server since last May…